As an American, I can only speak to American habits and ideas generally. Yet as a traveler, there are things we’ve all experienced that will open our eyes and make us rethink how things are done back home. Here are a few about Japan that are genuinely delightful and that I wish were imported more to the States. No country is perfect by any means but we can all stand to learn from one another. This list is by no means exhaustive and is taken from my own experience.
The Japanese philosophy of Mindfulness talks about awareness and respect. Whenever train doors open, you’ll find a row of neatly lined up people waiting to get on the train. After which, you’ll near blissful silence. There isn’t a person yammering into a cellphone or someone listening to music so loudly you can hear it from 5 feet away. Backpacks and briefcases are stored out of the way or on upper shelving units and the isles are clear. There is a presence of order and formality to their public transportation. The train is rarely ever late.
Except for where vending machines are located, there aren’t any public garbage cans and yet, there is also no trash all over the streets. There are a number of reasons for this, including the fact that people do not walk and eat. They will stay off to the side, eat while stationary and then pack everything away to dispose of at home. Some of this is for safety too, no public garbage cans means no one can leave a suspicious package waiting to give you a heart attack.
Japan is startlingly safe for solo travel. Walking down an empty street at night, you’ll notice places are well lit and no one bothers you. I’ve heard stories of people leaving cars unlocked, bikes in front of stores, wallets at counters and not worrying that it will be gone when they return. It doesn’t mean you can wander into any old place and have a good time though, there are still rules to be followed. You’ll also want to settle up any bar tabs you have and no arguing with any well dressed men who have tattoos…
This country experiences nearly 1000 small earthquakes a year, or so I hear. What this means is that they’ve been building their structures to endure this sort of ground shaking phenomenon for ages. Children are taught earthquake survival from a young age and adults regularly prepare a “Go Bag” near their work desk or places of business should anything like this happen during the day. Many major hotels or event spaces also stock spare supplies in case such an event occurs and people need to shelter in place. They are likely the leading country on earthquake construction and safety techniques.
5. Warm Seats
By this, I mean the toilet seat. One of the things I miss, especially during a freezing east coast winter, is a warm toilet seat. Cold butt in the mornings do not exist in most Japanese households and hotels. It just doesn’t happen. Granted their houses aren’t the best for insulation but when you’ve got to drop trow, the warmth is heavenly. The shock of a cold seat upon returning to the United States is indeed, chilling.
Travelers to Japan will appreciate not having to pay a restaurant server or any server really, a tip or gratuity as part of good service. Remember that mindfulness thing? Providing good service is part of that too. It means even if you try and provide a tip for good services rendered, they will refuse. One older taxi driver flat out didn’t understand the concept of extra monetary gratuity for a job well done.
Get it? Bonus Tip?